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Federal Politics

08 Feb 2018

Federal Politics Image

Embracing our past

Melbourne Ports has a rich history.

It is a history that began tens of thousands of years before the first European settler, Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn Liardet, arrived with his wife and family 1839 and decided to make their home on the beachfront.

Before the arrival of Europeans, indigenous Australians in the Port Phillip Bay area for around 40,000 years lived a semi-nomadic existence of fishing, hunting and gathering and some farming.

The traditional owners of the lands of Melbourne Ports and surrounding areas, are the Boon Wurrung, whose lands stretched for over 7500 square km reaching from the Dandenong Ranges to Wilson’s Promontory.

We are fortunate to have representatives of the Boon Wurrung still actively participating in our community at all levels. This is especially fortunate on Australia Day, as we openly display our diversity, welcoming new citizens into this great multicultural nation of ours, and embrace indigenous culture at the same time.

I always look forward to our Australia Day celebrations on January 26 and this year was no exception.

The ceremony of Australia Day is a timely reminder of our pre-colonial history to all of those present, and also acts as an excellent introduction to our indigenous culture for our new citizens.

Our Boon Wurrung people were made up of land-owning clans that spoke a related language and were connected through cultural and mutual interests, trading initiatives and marriage ties. The Yalukut Willam Clan were the clan from the Port Phillip area, and are often referred to as The River People of Port Phillip.

For thousands of years natural resources that were seen as essential were monitored, controlled and often restricted by a governing body, much the same as different levels of government do now. This was done to protect food sources such as fish and ensured a sustainable future for generations. There were also penalties, often severe, for breaches of these restrictions.

According to tradition, Boon Wurrung land is protected by their creator Bunjil, who travels as a wedgetail eagle and also by Waarn who looks after and protects the waterways travelling as a raven.

Bunjil taught the Boon Wurrung to always welcome guests, but it was imperative that the Boon Wurrung ask all visitors to the lands to make two promises. Obeying the laws of the Bunjil and to not harm the children or the land of the Bunjil.

This was a commitment that was made through the simple exchange of a small bough, which was dipped in the water.

After the formalities of the day at St Kilda and Glen Eira councils, new citizens were welcomed by the Boon Wurrung, as the lands traditional owners, with a “welcome to country” ceremony organised and hosted by representatives of the Boon Wurrung.

To this day the Boon Wurrung people continue their tradition as the proud custodians and protectors of these lands and it is of great importance that we honour and respect these traditions.

In previous years this ceremony has been held by Bonn Wurrung elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs.

Aunty Carolyn Briggs is recognised as a keeper of the history and genealogies of her people. She is a language and linguistics expert and is passionate about recording her Boon Wurrung language in both oral and written form. She has been active in community development, native title, cultural preservation and cultural promotion. She established Australia’s first Aboriginal childcare centre and is the CEO of the Boon Wurrung Foundation, which she set up to help connect Aboriginal youth to their heritage. Aunty Carolyn Briggs is also a member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

We are extremely fortunate to have active members of our indigenous community such as Aunty Carolyn Briggs in Melbourne Ports and their participation in the City of Port Phillip’s and Glen Eira’s Australia Day celebrations and citizenship ceremonies are some of the events I look forward to most in my calendar.

As an elected official it is vital that I attend significant events such as these that honour the region’s history and traditional owners. It is also a pleasure to welcome the newest members of our community which is a crucial part of any elected official’s role if they truly seek to represent their community.

I was glad to see so many in attendance this year.

Michael Danby - Federal Member (Melbourne Ports)

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